6 ways to approach making hard decisions when the answer isn’t clear.
Your business is going well.
You start to get “comfortable.” Maybe you splurge and buy yourself something nice:
A Tesla. Some Jordans. Guac at Chipotle.
Then boom! Pandemic.
What do you do?
Good to Great didn’t have a chapter titled “Shelter in Place Management 101.” Come on Jim Collins.
How do you approach being a leader and driving growth in this environment? It’s unprecedented and uncharted waters.
Here’s the framework I’m using to navigate my strategic decisions at this time.
Disclaimer: No clue if it’s going to work.
1) Over Communicate to Your Team
As I put myself in my team’s position, there are lots of questions they might have. Are we good? Am I good? Wait, do I need to beef up my resume? Your mind can wander down a dark path. That sucks. It impacts your mindset, mood, and performance. My move: Be transparent and open in your team meetings with good or bad info. Increase communication frequency. Bring people in early on strategy.
2) Learn From History
There have been many smart people before us that have gone through some sort of a crisis. Dot-com bubble. Housing crisis. Spanish Flu. While the details are different the strategic approach can be similar. I did my own research on how businesses responded with this one: What Founders & Marketers Should Do in a Downturn?
3) Seek Advice from People Smarter Than You
There’s a tendency to turn inward when things get hard. Do the opposite. Talk to people. If you believe that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with then lean into that. For business, I have taken this concept to heart and created an informal board of advisors. Some of them know they’re on it and others don’t. Here is my “Phantom Board of Advisors” and the specific value each person/group adds.
- A Bootstrapped Founder: Great for comparing notes with someone going through the same struggles: Cash-flow, hiring, strategy, etc.
- A Marketing Executive: Great for bouncing our growth strategy off someone that’s managing growth at a publicly-traded company.
- An Executive Coach: He holds us accountable on our first principle strategy, org process, and OKRs
- An Agency Mastermind: For industry insights and expertise, my agency community helps me have a finger on the pulse and offers new ways to approach problems specific to my industry.
- My Executive Team: Extremely proud of the team around me that constantly offers strategic solutions.
4) Have Extreme Focus by Saying No
As the world was ending, I started putting a plan together to combat this new environment. It was amazing. It included everything from ABM and SEM to community marketing and webinars. Then I realized I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. We trimmed down our efforts to 3 main objectives we can do in an accelerated time frame. I would rather do a few things well than half-ass everything.
5) Be Decisive
A decision by indecision might be the worst way to go down. Have a biased towards action and quick iterations. Don’t sit behind your computer polishing a perfect plan that drags out into weeks or months. Now is the time to be decisive and move swiftly. That’s the way I want to go down. It’s no longer about annual plans or quarterly goals. We’re thinking in 1-2 week spirits and iterating.
6) Default to Kindness
This will pass. People will remember (good or bad) how you lead. So don’t be a greedy jerk. No blindsiding. People have rent and families to support so give them as much insight as you can regardless of the outcome. Be human first.
Here are the six main takeaways from what to do when you don’t have the answers.
- Over Communicate to Your Team
- Learn from History
- Seek Advice from People Smarter Than You
- Have Extreme Focus By Saying No
- Be Decisive
- Default to Kindness